NAKED PREY is the thirteenth of John Sandford's Lucas Davenport mysteries, the thirteenth in thirteen years actually. The series has had its ups and, around WINTER PREY or NIGHT PREY, downs, but for the most part, Sandford has written consistently tight, suspenseful thrillers about the Minnesota police investigator who styles himself quite accurately as the state's richest cop. Nothing that has come before, however, will prepare Sandford's and Davenport's former and current fans for NAKED PREY.
NAKED PREY is far and away Sandford's best, a novel that succeeds on so many levels that it will leave readers shaking their heads in wonder. It begins and ends with brutal murders --- the first is a puzzle and the last is a given, but both are ultimately satisfying. What occurs in between --- the plotting, the characterization, the pacing --- will make you wish that NAKED PREY was twice as long.
NAKED PREY finds Davenport comfortably ensconced in a position known as "Director --- Office of Regional Studies," which in turn is part of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Davenport reports directly to his old boss, former Minneapolis police chief Rose Marie Roux, and through her to the governor. Davenport's job is to fix things (the actual terminology that Sandford employs is a bit more, uh, graphic than that) when a crime on the local level becomes too complicated or touchy.
When a black man and white woman are found dead, victims of an apparent lynching in upstate Minnesota, the call goes out to Davenport to get the job done. Davenport and his running partner, Del Capslock, are soon in the tiny town of Broderick in rural Custer County investigating the deaths, and lives, of Jane Warr and Deon Cash. Davenport slowly discovers that there is far more going on in the quiet streets of Broderick than they would ever suspect.
The murders of Warr and Cash are only the first of many that take place during the course of NAKED PREY. Sandford pulls a really neat trick here. The reader gradually finds out what is going on --- and there is quite a bit --- but is ahead of the curve. The suspense comes into play as the reader watches Davenport painstakingly work his way through the labyrinth of secrets that Broderick holds to his heart. And, as NAKED PREY reaches its conclusion, the question becomes not how Davenport finds out who is behind the multiple murders, but whether he'll find out. And don't presuppose that you already know the answer to that